Ever since I was a youngster, I’ve always had cable. It started out as a sliding channel unit that sat on top of our family TV. It changed to a box top and a remote and until a couple of months ago, it was a whole house DVR that could tape 5 shows.
However, for months, if not years, I had enough. Yes, I loved watching TV on demand and being able to tape ever single episode of Fixer Upper (yeah, guilty), I realized that I really didn’t watch TV. Neither did my children. Or actually, I didn’t think having that much TV was worth the $150+ a month in cable/internet was worth it.
I had enough and decided to become a cord cutter.
This is my story of how I did it and how you can do it too.
First, admit you pay too much for cable. Second, admit you really don’t watch all those channels.
For me, the change was already in the works for about a year as we had already subscribed to both Hulu and Netflix and were consuming a majority of our shows and movies on those platforms. Once my wife joined Amazon Prime, we added another level of shows and movies that almost covered all of our needs.
You see, my wife is a sports nut and if I was going to cut the cord, come this fall, there better be a solution for college football and NFL. If not, I’d be on IR for the rest of the season myself.
The good part is that not only am I cord free, but my wife has been able to watch sports (at an acceptable level) and my pocketbook is feeling quite better now.
After investigating the process on the internet, asking friends who have cut the cord and then doing a lot of contemplation, the following is the process I took and the tools I felt was needed to cut the cord. In addition, I made a short video outlining the different steps in visual form, but I provide more details in the blog:
Step 1: Adjusting your cable/internet services
The most important decision you need to make isn’t canceling your internet service, but only your cable. Most people have their internet and cable under one provider, which I did with Wide Open West. I still needed internet services and honestly that is the saving grace to this whole endeavor.
Luckily, when I called to cancel only my cable subscription, I was able to get a great promotional rate on my internet service: 110 mbps down 20 mbps up for $60 a month. Since I would be using the internet and streaming a lot more videos, it was worth the trade out.
Now, you may not be able to get the same deal as I, but it may not hurt to call and find out.
Step 2: Upgrading you modem & wireless router
When you move your viewing primarily online, data can be quickly consumed by the multiple devices being used to stream video. If you haven’t invested in upgrading your modem (if your cable provider doesn’t already give you one) and wireless router, I suggest you do so at this time to maximize your ability to stream video through wi-fi moving forward.
There are a lot of options out there, but these are my suggestions:
Modem – Motorola Arris SB6141 – $75.00
I only suggest purchasing a modem when your cable provider decides to charge you a monthly fee to “rent” their modem. My cost was $10 a month so for me to purchase my own higher end modem that can handle the 110 mbps downloads, it will only take 7 months to break even.
Just make sure whatever modem you do purchase has IPv6 and can handle download speeds larger than what your cable provider is offering. Also, installing a new cable modem, regardless of what model, will still require you to get it registered with your cable company for it to be recognized.
Wireless Router – ASUS (RT-AC68U) – Dual Band Router – $175.00
There are a lot of wireless routers out there, so make sure to do some research in finding the right one for your home.
Note: I selected these two because of their ease of set up, which does take a little bit of technological experience, but the end result has been great. Keep in mind, there are some good wireless modem/routers out there, so if you want to purchase one instead of two, feel free.
Step 2: Investigating your analog/HD channel coverage in your area
Before I did anything, I needed to know how close and how many channels I’d be able to get with an HD antenna. There are a couple of sites that I used that helped me find out where I need to point my antenna once it was installed:
The following provides a quick overview of what is in my area as an example:
If you see, there are 16 antennas in basically 3 locations around my city. Based on this information, I had a couple of decisions to make:
1. Did I want to point in the direction with the most coverage of channels?
2. Did I want to point to collect the all of the antenna channels?
3. Did I want to collect the channels from antennas that were beyond this radius. For example, Madison, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, and Peoria?
What I decided, which was based on both price and coverage, was to have a single directional antenna pointed toward downtown Chicago where I could get the majority of the channels that I wanted.
Step 3: Purchasing an antenna.
I’ll be spending a lot of time in this section and I may update this section based on questions that I get from people who read and need more info.
Buying an antenna is like buying a bed. It really ends up being about what your need is and how much you want to pay, but let me give you some guidance:
Indoor wall versus roof installed: Okay, first off, just don’t get bunny ears. They aren’t even part of this discussion. However, you may show up at a Radio Shack and they’ll try to sell you something like the following image:
I would only recommend these type of indoor window/wall mounted HD antennas if you have a clear sight to an antenna or only want a limited number of channels.
Ultimately, size matters and while these antennas can work, they aren’t going to go the distance if you are really looking for coverage.
Single directional vs. Multi-directional: Depending on where you live, the antenna location tool may show that you may have multiple directions to get signals. If you desire to get all those channels, then by all means get a multi-directional one.
However, know that if you do that, you may get the same set of channels (i.e. CBS/NBC/ABC) from 2-3 different cities. If that’s what you want then great.
In general, the following is the difference between the two:
One other option is getting a single directional antenna that has a powered rotator on it. This way, if your antenna needs to be adjusted, you can do it from within the house and not have to go to the roof everytime you need to make an adjustment. Here’s a photo of one:
Antenna Ranges: A normal range for an antenna is about 30-40 miles with a direct line of site (not perfect, but not through large buildings, etc) However, you can buy antennas that have 150 mile ranges if you live in the country or just want to collect more channels. However, when you use the antenna location website, it’ll tell you approximately how far the antennas are and you should choose a range within that distance.
What did I end up buying?
Based on my situation, I ended up buying a single directional antenna versus a multi-directional one. Because I live approximately 40 miles from the antenna, I purchased one that extended 40 miles.
Where did I end up buying?
I went to multiple places including Radio Shack, Best Buy, and Fry’s Electronics. If I would have bought in the stores, I probably would have purchased it from Fry’s, which seemed to have the best selections.
However, I ended up buying mine from Amazon. Part of it was taking the time to research the review, but also it was the price.
I purchased the Mediasonic Homeworx HDTV Outdoor Antenna + 19″ Reversible J-Pole (Antenna + Pole) for $29. Here’s a photo of it. Like I mentioned before, it didn’t seem like much, but what I liked is that it covered 40 miles and the price.
If you are looking for a multi-directional antenna, I’d suggest this one: Dual Quad Bay Outdoor HDTV/DTV/UHF Bowtie Television Antenna.
- UHF/VHF Channel Coverage. Keep in mind, some antennas only pick up VHF channels (channels 14+) and don’t cover UHF channels (2-13). Make sure you read through reviews and/or the product specs.
- Construction. After pulling my antenna out of the box, I was really, really surprised at how lightweight and almost simple the antenna was constructed. A friend of mine said (and showed me) that he created an antenna out of paperclips. Don’t worry too much at the size or weight of the antenna, but really on the end result. You may be surprised at the result.
- J-Pole. Make sure you find an antenna that has a J-pole that allows your antenna to stand on the roof. If it doesn’t have one, you’ll need to purchase one like this one below and make sure it has the connections to attach to the antenna. A 19″ pole will be just fine for most installations. Most J-Poles come with the screws, but you’ll still need to mount them, then use silicone to ensure water doesn’t leak through.
Step 4: Additional Tools
The antenna is only one part, albeit the most important part, of this project. There are definitely some key tools you’ll need to have for this project including:
RG6 Coaxial Cable – ($20/100′) – $25 – Now, you can purchase this with the ends or without. If you are like me, you just don’t know how much you need to run, so I ended up purchasing the cable with no ends and then purchased a box of ends to clamp on (which I’ll show you in the video). Keep in mind, for HD signals, you’ll need RG6, which transfers HD signals more optimally and if possible Quad Shielded. Honestly, this is all jargon, but hey, it worked.
For distance, I purchased a 100′ length knowing I’d cut it down and possible be using it internally for multiple TVs. It was about $25 at the Home Depot.
Screw on F-Connector Caps ($10) – In the video, I actually use a crimper to put on the F-Connectors, but honestly, it was way too hard. When you cut the cable and then tried to tread the F-Connector on with plier, then had to crimp it, it was hit or miss.
I somehow found a couple of screw-on connectors that were a ton easier! All you need to really do is use a pair of pliers and slowly screw them on.
Sure, you can crimp, but the amount of effort to do it took too long and I wasted a half dozen in the attempt! Just beware!
RG6 Cutter ($10) – Optional. If you decide that you want to cut it yourself, all I’ll explain is that you’ll need a modified cutter, not just a pair of cutters. These special cutters don’t just cut the coaxial cable in two, but threads it in a way so the F-Connectors fit better when it is done like this photo:
4 Port Cable TV/HDTV/Digital Amplifier Internet Model Signal Booster Internet AMP ($35) – That’s a long title to say that it’s an amplifier for the signal from the antenna. Digital signals breakdown after about 100 feet, so just in case, this amplifier jacks up the signal strength to the rest of the house, especially when you are splitting the signal to different parts of the house.
This amplifier is powered by a wall unit, then there are up to four splitters you can use to split the signal too. Yes, there are splitters that have more, but I thought four was enough for me.
Finally, you’ll need the following:
- Screwdrivers (both types) and preferably electric.
- Silicone and/or roof tar
Step 5: Installing the antenna in your attic or roof
Since there are so many different types of antennas, I won’t go into the construction of the antenna itself.
However, make sure you have everything except for the amplifier to ensure you don’t need to come back down to grab something.
Roof or attic? After I installed mine, I think I could have installed it in the attic. Since I didn’t, I can’t give a lot of advice, but from what I can tell you, make sure you use a J-Pole and get it high enough and pointed in the right direction in the attic.
One of the key reasons to put it in the attic is two fold: To improve overall aesthetic and to minimize hopefully your need to do custom threading of the wire.
Location. Make sure that you know what direction you need to point the antenna to understand where on the roof you need to at least start.
Blockages. You will get reduced coverage with concrete, buildings, etc, so don’t try to place it where a chimney or a large tree will be in the way.
Threading. Before you start anything, make sure you know what your entry plan is into your home. Are you going to thread it through the roofline? Off the side? Remember that the longer the cable, the increase loss of signal, so make sure to find a place that allows you the shortest distance, but maximum signal opportunity.
Height. Honestly, if you have a clear angle to the antenna, even with trees, then you can go pretty low on the roof line.
What did I do?
As you will see in the video, I had a pretty clear sightline to the antennas, so I installed my antenna lower on the roofline for aesthetics and closer to the end of the roof because I wanted to thread down the side of the house because I couldn’t thread through the roof.
Step 6: Prepping the cable correctly
When prepping the cable, this video shows you how to do it if you are crimping it. The only difference with a screw-on is that you don’t need to crimp and simply screw the connector on once you cut the appropriate amount to thread. However, if you would like to crimp it, here’s a better video on how to do it and what tools you’ll need.
Step 6: Feeding the cable into your house.
Once your first connector is completed, thread the wire through the house until you get close to your amplifier. At this time DO NOT put the F-connector on the other end as you’ll need to use it to thread through to the basement using the least amount of space.
These were the options to my amplifier, which I located in the basement:
- Through the spacing in my roof, then threading it between walls until I reached the basement.
- Down the outside of my house, then threading it through an existing hole into the basement area.
Honestly, however you can do it, do it with the least amount of cable to maximize the signal feed. For me, I used the downspout to hide the wire, then threaded the cable through an existing opening used for my air conditioning unit hoses.
Step 7: Adding an amplifier (optional)
Not all installations need amplifiers, but remember the longer a signal travels from the source, the more it loses its strength. On the flip side, once you start to split it into different signal cables to share throughout the house, the signal further weakens. An amplifier helps to boost the signal coming in from the antenna to multiple TV to offset the loss of signal.
I decided to place my amplifier in my basement, since I have existing cable runs to numerous TVs throughout the house. I purchased a 4 Port Cable TV/HDTV/Digital Amplifier Internet Model Signal Booster Internet AMP as seen below.
In the video, you’ll see I secure the amplifier into the wall, then power it using a nearby plug, which uses a cable as well and connects to the node that is labeled “PWR IN”. If it is done correctly, a green light will illuminate from the connector point. Once I know where the amplifier is in place and the RJ-6 cable is located nearby, I then cut the cable with about a 6″-12″ slack and attached the other end of the F-Connector to the cable.
Once it is completed, I connect it to the connector labelled “RF REV IN/OUT.” In this unit, there are 4 output connectors that you can use to connect the signals to other TVs. Since I had existing cables, I just connected them directly from here to each of my TV units.
Step 8: Connecting and testing your TV Coverage
This step will vary from TV to TV, but at a minimum, once you connect the cable to the back of your TV, you should get a local analog channel to show up. However, most HDTV’s will have a setting allowing you to find all channels available through the antenna specifically. I recommend you running this program on your TV in order to program all of the channels (HD & analog) without you having to do it manually.
If for some reason it does not pick up any channels, you may need to look at your connections again and ensure the right fit.
Step 9: Considerations
This endeavor still has some drawbacks that you need to take into consideration:
- Since I removed cable service, my ability to access streaming shows on networks from USA Network, TNT and CBS rely on an existing cable contract with a provider. Since I didn’t have that anymore, I couldn’t stream those shows, I basically need to make sure I was watching any CBS/NBC/ABC programs live and/or hoping they’d be covered on Hulu. Hey, if you have a good friend who has a cable account, you could get around that, but that’s a decision you’ll need to make…or really your friend’s decision.
- You won’t get 100% coverage of the shows that you live. There will still be gaps on some channels and sometimes you can figure out how to make it work and/or you just deal. At this point, I’m just dealing. However, honestly, there are some shows that I thought I’d really miss, but you kind get used to it.
- Getting 70 channels over your antenna isn’t 70 HD channels. There are a lot of duplicates, lots of foreign stations, and still a lot of junk channels. Some weren’t even HD. If you really filtered it out, there were maybe 5-8 HD channels and about 20% duplicate channels.
Step 9: Augmenting HD coverage with other programs.
Now that you have an HD antenna, it really solves the issue of local channels, but you are like me, you really need sports and other channels. Here’s what I did to make up the channels that I liked and wanted:
No costs/One Time costs:
- NBC.com, CBS.com, ABC.com – Most shows available online within 1 day of broadcast
- Apple TV – Movies and other streaming platforms – $99
- Googlecast – Movies and other streaming platforms – $35
- Alternatively most DVD players and game consoles have similar streaming access options as well.
- Hulu Plus – Some select network TV shows and older movies. $7.99/month – $11.99/month ad free.
- Netflix – Relatively new and older movies and Netflix original shows. $8.99/month
- Amazon.com – Like Netflix with new and older movies and Amazon original shows. $99/year or $8.25/month
- Sling TV – Base 16 channels of major stations with the ability to expand on a tiered system. I purchased the base plus the sports extra that got me the following channels:
- A&E, ABC Family, AMC, Cartoon Channel, CNN, Disney, El Rey, ESPN, ESPN 2, Food Network, Galavision, H2, HGTV, History, IFC, Lifetime, Maker, TBS, TNT, Travel Channel. $20/month
- Sports Extra: BeIn Sports, ESPN Bases Loaded, ESPN Buzzer Beater, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN News, ESPN U, SEC Network, Universal Sports, Univision Desportes. – $5/month
- If you want additional information, click on the image below or view the original article HERE:
I had been spending approximately $175 a month on a limited cable package and internet before I made the decision to cut the cord. Here’s the final financial tally of what it took me to be a true cord cutter:
- Equipment one time cost: Approximately $100 and 5-6 hours of time for installation. (This does not include modem and router purchase)
- Monthly cable costs: $60.00 internet and $50 for online channel access = $110/monthly.
Overall, I’m relatively happy with the decision. My children can still watch most of their TV shows and we can get almost all sports coverage we want, especially when we want. For us in Chicago, the real loss is hockey and baseball due to it being shown on the local Comcast station, which we do not have access to. Otherwise, saving approximately $780 a year has been worth it as has being able to watch what I want when I want.
Feel free to leave comments or send me emails if you have any questions about what I did. I’m happy to provide additional details or clarify my steps to help you become a cord cutter as well.
Thanks and good luck!